Esotericism and Narrative: The Occult Fiction of Charles Williams

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Esotericism and Narrative: The Occult Fiction of Charles Williams situates the life and fiction of the Inkling Charles Williams in the network of modern occultism, with special focus on his initiatory experiences in A.E. Waite’s Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. Aren Roukema evaluates fictional projections of magic, kabbalah, alchemy and ritual experience in Williams’s seven novels of supernatural fantasy. From this specific analysis, he develops more broadly applicable approaches to the serious expression of religious experience in fiction. Roukema shows that esoteric knowledge has frequently been blurred into fiction because of its inherent narrativity and adaptability, particularly by authors already attracted to the syncretism, multivalence and lived fantasy of the modern occult experience.
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Biographical Note

Aren Roukema is a doctoral researcher at Birkbeck, University of London. He is Co-Editor of Correspondences and has published on esotericism and fiction in The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875–1947 (Routledge, 2018), Journal of Inklings Studies, and North Wind.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements Abbreviations
Introduction: Through the PortalWilliams and the Occult: Some Discursive ComplicationsEncountering the Occult in Williams’s Fiction: A Literary/Historical Method
1 Life and Times: Christian Occultism in Modern EnglandA Life in Myth“But about This Reality of Yours …”The “Dead Master”Arthur Edward WaiteOccult Imagination and the Secret TraditionConstructing a Cordon SanitaireChristian Occultism
2 The Fellowship of the Rosy Cross: A Modern Occult ExperienceMasonic RosicrucianismThe Paths of the Tree of LifeThe F.R.C. and the Golden Dawn: The Adeptus Minor Rituals
3 Fiction and ExperienceThe Unbearable Lightness of FictionFantastic Narratology: The Liminality of Esoteric KnowledgeThe Novels—Intrusions of the SupernaturalThe Gothic OccultIn the Network of Occult FictionThe Novels of an Adeptus Exaltatus“The End of Desire”—The Discovery of the Higher SelfOccult Fiction, Occult Life
4 Kabbalah: Charles Williams and the Middle PillarA.E. Waite and Modern Occult KabbalahBecoming Shekinah: Charles Williams and the Middle PillarThe Greater TrumpsKabbalistic Eros and Romantic Theology
5 The High-Priestess: Charles Williams and Modern MagicMagic in the WestThe “High-Priestess of Heaven”Ritual Semiotics and the Magical Imagination
6 A Magical Life in FictionActive ImaginationActive WillThe Way of P’o-luArt Magic: Sex, Poetry, ConsciousnessReanimation: Enchantment and EmpowermentInterpretive Drift: The Development of a Modern Christian Magic
7 The Transmutation of Charles Williams: Spiritual and Literary AlchemyFrom Metallurgy to Particle Physics: A Brief History of AlchemyInfluences: Lee, Waite, AtwoodRosicrucian AlchemyThe Great Work in FictionA Literary Alchemist
Epilogue: The Coagulation of Belief
Bibliography Index

Readership

All interested in modern occultism, esotericism, magic, kabbalah, and alchemy, researchers of Charles Williams and/or the Inklings in general, and theorists interested in the relationship between religious expression/experience and narrative.